In these very uncertain times, the least we could do is feel the grief the victims’ families are going through
We are under the grip of the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite the lockdown/curfew imposed by UTs/states to arrest the spread of Covid-19, India recorded over 2.57 lakh new cases as of 8 am on May 22, taking total infections to over 2.62 crores. Out of the total cases, over 29 lakh are currently active, while over 2.30 crore patients have recovered. With 4194 new fatalities, the death toll is close to 2.95 lakhs. In Goa, with deaths spiralling to 2303, the positivity rate receded to 32 per cent while the recovery rate rose to 85 per cent as of 7 am on May 22.
More devastating than any other natural disaster, Covid-19 is taking a toll on many the world over. The honorific maestro and genuine ustaad Santiago Lusardi Girelli, who held the Goa University’s Anthony Gonsalves chair and led the Goa University choir, passed away at the age of 41 due to Covid-19. Argentinian-born, Santiago had made Goa his home and over the last eight years knitted together an exceptional body of musicians, ages ranging from teenagers to grandparents, and kept on thrilling audiences with inspiring performances at wonderful heritage sites. The spectacular Ketevan Sacred Music Festival was his creation.
With a blend of ancient to ultra-modern composition, his compositions were rendered in Latin, Spanish, English, and indigenous native-American languages. Even during the last year’s lockdowns, Santiago led virtual choirs to help people beat the pandemic blues and The Amazing Grace choir project garnered attention for contributing to the WHO’s solidarity response fund.
Two of the well-known Goan cultural ambassadors lost the battle with Covid-19. Poet Prakash Padgaonkar had a humanistic fervor and mystical approach to Konkani poetry-writing career spanning over four decades. He has twice won the awards of Kala Academy, Goa, for Vascoyan and Hanv Monis Ashwatthamo, and Konkani Bhasha Mandal, Goa, for Uzvaddachim Pavlam and Vascoyan. He bagged the Sahitya Akademi, Delhi Award for Hanv Monis Ashwatthamo (1986) and the Best Book Award (2005) of the Dr T M A Pai Foundation, Manipal. for Vhaunti Nhai Kallachi He received Rajya Sanman (2007) for Cultural Excellence for Achievement and Contribution in the literature at the national level, and also Goa State Cultural Award 2009-10 for Cultural Excellence in the field of literature.
An accomplished sitar player, Yogiraj Naik Borkar, represented the young generation of Indian classical musicians in Goa. Borkar had been performing professionally from the age of 15 at national-level classical music festivals. He is well known for fusion music- a blend of Hindustani classical music and jazz.
One of Goa’s prominent criminal lawyers Adv Rajiv Gomes succumbed to Covid-19. He represented some of the very high profile cases, including Remo Fernandes, Tehelka editor-in-chief Tejpal, Babush and others.
Covid-19 had its impact on the football fraternity as well. Among them was Shaikh Salim,the then captain of the Goa junior football team (1975), who died in Muscat. He had started his football career with Don Bosco Oratory before moving to Panvel SC in 1974. He played for Salgaocar SC for a short time, when he decided to take up a job abroad. Another legend, Fortunato Franco, who was the midfield marshal of the Indian football team that won gold at the 1983 Asian Games in Jakarta passed away at the age of 84. With the death of Anjuna-born Lavinio Rebello, who served the Goa Football Association for nearly 20 years in different capacities, Goan football plunged into darkness.
The Covid-19 did not spare the politicians either. The minister Dr Suresh Amonkar died at the age of 68. He represented the Pale constituency (now Sanquelim) twice in 1999 and 2002 as a member of the Goa legislative assembly on the BJP ticket. He was the minister of health, social welfare, and labour and employment in Francisco Sardinha cabinet (1999-2000) and was minister of health, labour and employment, and factories and boilers in the Parrikar ministry (October 2000-February 2002).
Former Taleigao strongman Somnath Zuwarkar also succumbed to Covid-19. He was elected on the Congress ticket for three terms during 1989-2002. He had served as the Minister for Civil Supplies, Cooperation and Transport in the governments led by Pratapsingh Rane and Francisco Sardinha.
Dozens of priests, seminarians, and scores of nuns have died during the second wave. Goa Diocese lost Fr Jayson Vaz, assistant priest, Our Lady of Hope Church, Candolim. Hailing from Cuncolim, he was ordained a priest in 2010 and served in parishes of Velsao, São José-de-Areal, and Loutolim. The Ponda-born parish priest Fr Cajetan Lourenco at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Mundalli (Bhatkal), Karwar Diocese, also succumbed to the virus.
Among the frontline workers, scores of nurses and doctors have been victims. These include Dr Anarkali Parab, 35, who worked as a resident at Vision Hospital, Mapusa. Before testing positive, she was on active hospital duty.
I salute all these personalities and many more not listed here who succumbed in the fight against Covid-19. May their souls rest in peace.
(The writer is a scientist and freelance writer)